Before kids (B.K.), Ron and I would spend hours and hours hiking on the weekend. We’d pack up our dog, a lunch and be on our merry way to the mountains. No need to worry about what time we left, how long we’d be gone or when we’d be home. We were carefree to wander as we pleased.
When we found out that we were expecting twins, we didn’t think anything would change. We dreamed of when we could take them out on the trail, in a pack to start with and eventually on their own two feet, to share our love of wandering. You just pack and go, right?
Oh how silly of us.
After kids (A.K.), changes everything. Including how you hike.
Hiking with kids isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when you are first getting started. So how do you turn your kids into enthusiastic hikers?
1. Start short and slow. Don’t expect to cover 5 miles at a brisk pace for your child’s first hike. Starting off with a short distance at the child’s pace is best. Be prepared for frequent stops. LOTS of stops.
2. Toss out your agenda. Let your child lead. You may want to hike for hours, but if they call it quits after 15 minutes, it’s better to head back to the car rather than force them to keep moving onward.
3. Be prepared. Bring a First Aid kit because there’s bound to be a skinned knee. In addition, wet wipes, tissues, lip balm, sunblock and insect repellant are just as important.
4. Gear up. From mini backpacks, compasses, and water bottles, there’s nothing cooler to a child than a mini version of mom or dad’s gear. Although you most likely will be the one who ends up carrying that mini backpack in addition to your own.
5. Snacks and fluids. Hiking requires a lot of energy. When kids run out of energy, what happens? They get cranky. Very cranky. Keep your child happy and motivated by taking numerous small breaks for fluids and snacks. I’ve learned that you can never pack too many snacks. If you think you’ve packed enough, pack some more. More is always better.
6. Bring a friend. Having a friend on a hike helps motivate kids. There will be less whining and more chatting about all the cool things on the trail.
7. Dress properly. Make sure that you take ample amounts of clothing in case your child gets cold while out on the trail. Always bring a waterproof jacket with a hood in addition to a hat and gloves. Make sure your kids have the proper shoes. Finally, always pack a change of clothes for each child and leave them in the car for your return from the trail – chances are someone is going to be wet and muddy!
8. Stick it. Kids love sticks. It can be used for so many things – a walking stick, for bushwacking through low trees, poking at plants or as a pointer. We seem to always find the “perfect” hiking stick at least 10 times during a hike.
9. Have a destination. Choose hikes with landmarks, like a trail that ends at a fire tower, a lake or a waterfall. A post hike destination is always a good motivator too. My kids’ seem to hike a little faster knowing that there’s a stop at an ice cream place on the way home.
10. Emphasize fun. The whole goal is to make sure that their experience is FUN so they will want to go again.
There will be whining. There will be complaining. But hopefully, there will also be laughter, excitement and joy in enjoying a fun experience as a family in the great outdoors. And that is marvelous when it happens.